1963 Sydney Grand Final

1963 Wests Coach, Neil Wright smallThe story of the Sydney 1963 grand final is worth telling.

This was the time of only one division in Sydney with three grades, first, reserves and under 19.

Like all competitions you had the winners and the losers, the well run clubs and those, for whatever reason, that struggled.

The league had just come through a rather tumultuous period.  Just previous to this the fulltime secretary had been suspended, the treasurer had resigned, the books were in an absolute mess and then the stand-in permanent secretary got his marching orders resulting in court action.  The league began the season £500 in the red ($13,500 in today’s money).

Ern McFarlane, that “hail fellow, well met” long term Newtown official and player, who didn’t mind a drink, had taken the reigns in 1961 and was in the chair during all of this upheaval.

Besides this the league underwent some change, but not enough;  The had tried a 16 aside competition which was continually denounced until they returned to the status quo.

And then there was the obvious disparity in the standard of the competition and while two divisions were discussed, it never happened with the next year resulting in the amalgamation of some clubs.  That too eventually failed.

It was a time when the University club was coming out of its recession and UNSW was just about to emerge as their own entity so if the league had bitten the bullet, maybe Sydney football could have been different rather than waiting until the early 1970s and the introduction of a second division.

A former Western Suburbs then Bankstown ruckman, Rhys Giddey, who was a member of the league’s administration, took over the fulltime secretary’s position working out of what could only be described as a very disorganised brick building at Trumper Park – since demolished.

1963 Balmain v Parramatta thumbnailHe soon moved the offices to a ‘suite’ (room) at 307 Sussex Street in the city.

Action image shows Balmain’s captain-coach, Ray Rocher marking in front of a Parramatta opponent in a match during the season.  Click to enlarge.

The final four was a reasonably close finish.  Wests, well recognized as the money club following its successful venture to a licensed club, finished on top with 56 points, then came North Shore on 48, Sydney Naval on 46 and Newtown on 44.

Wests scored an easy win over North Shore in the second semi to move into the grand final while Newtown on the other hand battled their way from fourth with a first semi win, then a preliminary final victory over Norths to reach the decider.

The scene was set and a fine day brought out a big crowd at Trumper Park, allegedly eclipsing any that had previously attended an Australian football game at the ground, and were in for a treat.

Never one to let an opportunity pass, league secretary, Giddey told the press that the crowd totalled 11,377 who paid £2,235 though the gate.  It was later revealed that Rhys could be a bit loose with the truth freely admitting to his over zealous statement in the years that followed.

Unfortunately for Wests they had their strapping 1.94cm ruckman coach, former VFA representative player, Neil Wright in hospital with hepatitus A.  Wright had played a big part in the Magpies success and was one of their best in the second semi.  He had coached country club Finley the year before.

Newtown had as their captain and coach, the big policeman in Ellis Noack, a current member of the History Society.

As was the norm for Sydney grand finals it started with a fight, but it never really ended there, the conflict continued throughout the game.  The main target of Newtown’s attack was Western Suburbs fullback, Ray Sharrock, a wonderful player from the RAAF who had won the Phelan Medal in the same year.  In one incident, Sharrock had cleared the ball downfield when a Newtown ruckman ran 20 metres to strike him from behind, knocking Sharrock to the ground, unconscious.

On two occasions, spectators twice fired beer cans onto the field which stopped play for some time.  Not long after that a Wests player heavily dumped the opposition player who had attacked Sharrock and so it was on again.1963 Ray Sharrock small

Newtown’s Gordon Hancock and John Griffiths from Wests were reported during the game for fighting.

At the first break Newtown led 4-5 to 2-2 increasing their lead to 7-9 to 4-4 by half time.  An upset was on the cards.

But Newtown could not sustain their opponents third term onslaught;  at one stage Wests hit the front but Newtown countered to hold a nine point lead at the final change.

Early in the last quarter Western Suburbs piled on five quick goals and it was only for the sheer talent and determination of Sharrock at fullback that kept Newtown regaining the lead.  His finger tip marking was a sight to see.

By this time secretary Giddey had called the police who came en-mass lining the ground as well as the players race.  Giddey himself came inside the fence line waiting for the bell to ring thinking his presence could contain any further violence.  Giddey was a big man.

Wests won the game by 10 points 14-14 (98) to 12-16 (88).  As soon as the match finished so too did the violence.  The win gave Wests their second flag since their re-entry into the competition in 1948.

What Happened in 1963

1963 Neil Wright - Wests coach smallAll years in Sydney football are different but 50 years ago, 1963 just appeared to be that little bit different.

A year after 2UW broadcast the VFL Grand Final in Sydney in what can only be described as a very unique media event, the league started the year five hundred pounds ($1,000) in the red.  Prior to this the league finished 1962 with a deficit of five hundred and forty three pounds ($1086.00), four hundred and one pounds ($802.00) in 1961 and three hundred and seventy five pounds ($750.00) in 1960. This may not sound like much money today but back then, they were almost insurmountable figures for a struggling code.

Former Western Suburbs and Bankstown player, Rhys Giddey had been appointed the league’s secretary working out of a small building at Trumper Park.  He went on to assume a fulltime appointment in the position.

1963 followed at least one season of administrative turmoil and because the previous (honorary) secretary had been summarily dismissed in mid January (1963) officials failed to get hold of any of the financial records until nearly three months in so a set of unaudited accounts were presented to members at the AGM.

The league certainly had their problems.

On the club scene, calls for a two division system were ignored.  The Liverpool and Bankstown clubs amalgamated which reduced the competition to eleven clubs, necessitating a bye and there were suggestions that two other unnamed clubs should also amalgamate. It didn’t happen.

However the league engineered the draw so that the top teams from 1962 played each other twice as did the lower five clubs.  Top and bottom sides then only had to meet on one occasion.  This ensured the presentation of the game overall at a generally higher standard with the lower clubs meeting under more equitable conditions.

Western Suburbs were hailed as the glamour club upon the construction of their licensed premises fronting onto Picken Oval was complete.

The club signed a former VFA player, ruckman Neil Wright (pictured) as their coach on a four figure fee, something unheard of in Sydney football.  This is when St George paid their ex-VFL coach two hundred and fifty pounds ($500) and South Sydney paid theirs, one hundred pounds ($200).  Wests also openly announced that it would pay both their first AND reserve grade players.  Another exceptional occurrence in the league.

In total the Magpies had fifteen new players from interstate and country areas.  They also afforded the top dressing their Picken Oval ground for the season.

Then on the eve of the finals Wests were hit with a savage blow when coach Wright was admitted to Prince Henry Hospital with hepatitis.  His place was taken by former club captain, Peter Kuschert.

Meanwhile, Hurstville Council decided to call for tenders for a large scale development of Olds Park and the St George Club was one which submitted a proposal for a successful 21 year lease for the site.

Rain forced the postponement of all round 4 matches in late April

The Parramatta club got themselves into strife in a match against St George in early May when they played 16 unregistered players.  These were all former players with Liverpool which had amalgamated with Bankstown and their registration was locked into the last placed, Liverpool/Bankstown Club.  Parramatta were fined a hefty fifty pounds ($100).

In May, St George took the opportunity to travel to Newcastle on their bye weekend where they defeated the Hamilton Club 8.15 (63) to 6.11 (47).  A week later they scored an impressive 15.15 (105) to 0.2 (2) win over Eastern Suburbs at Trumper Park, however in mid June they too had a shock when a last minute goal by Sydney University’s John Weissel gave the students a rare win over the Saints.

The East’s loss was their greatest in the club’s history and many attributed the atrocious weather conditions as one of the reasons for their poor performance.

Most fans chuckled quietly in round 6 when Parramatta included an untried 199.5cm American, Harvey Haddock in their side to meet Eastern Suburbs.  Hadock was a sailor on the USS aircraft carrier, Coral Sea which was visiting Sydney.  Easts won 17.7 (109) to 13.14 (92).  Hadcock battled to get a kick.

NSW played three interstate games that year and lost the lot.  A two goal loss to Queensland in Brisbane, an eleven point defeat by the ACT in Canberra and an eight goal loss to Combined Universities on the June long weekend.

On 14 July, Eastern Suburbs backman, John Grey was charged with kicking boundary umpire Leo Farley in a game against St George.  Grey was outed by the Tribunal for five years.

Burly Newtown captain-coach, Ellis Noack won the league’s goalkicking with 55 majors while versatile, Western Suburbs fullback, Ray Sharrock, who played most of the season in a back brace, won the Phelan Medal.

Sharrock was instrumental in his club’s grand final victory over Newtown before a record crowd at Trumper Park.  League secretary, Rhys Giddey gave the attendance as 11,337 but admitted years later that he may well over liberally over-estimated the number.

As in many of Sydney’s grand finals, the 1963 version was no exception  It opened sensationally with an all-in brawl after an incident in the ruck snowballed and players from all parts of the field rushed to join in the melee.

Players from both sides stood trading punches until central umpire Mal Lee together with goal and boundary umpires separated them.

Newtown’s Gordon Hancock, in later years a leading figure in the Bankstown Sports club, was reported for striking and Wests John Griffiths was charged with kicking.  Wests won 14.14 (98) to Newtown’s 12.16 (88)  after the Magpies were down by nine points at the final change.

The league cancelled the proposed 15 September two hundred and fifty pound ($500), Premiers v The Rest Game and replaced it with a final of the post season knock-out competition between St George and South Sydney.

Not to spoil their poor record, the league again finished the 1963 season in the red.  This time though it was a much more manageable figure of thirty seven pounds ($74.00)

NEW MEDIUM ABOUT TO LAUNCH

Newsletter image with background colourThe Society will issue their latest newsletter next week after the final touches were added today.

“We had a bit of space that we needed to fill and couldn’t come up with anything of real interest to the members so it sat there for weeks” the Society’s news editor told us late this week.  “But we were fortunate to gain a couple of interesting enough fillers which allowed the document to go to our proof reader who gave it the green light, so it should be posted out shortly.”

The best part about the issue of the September newsletter will be the addition of the Society’s first annual journal.  This 50 page document has been put together by committeeman, Paul Macpherson and proof read by our sub editor who also gave this publication a tick, so its all systems go.

Memberships Officer, Jenny Hancock (pictured) said she expects both of these documents will be well received by the members.Jenny-Hancock2

“A fair bit of work has gone into putting them together and I for one am very pleased with the result” Jenny said.

“People will find the journal an absorbing read while the newsletter is full of worthwhile articles most of which are very relative to what members want to know.”

Both will be available to members only.

Jenny also reports that the numbers are quickly growing for the Newtown Football Club reunion.  Now only four weeks away officials are speculating whether they should put a limit on the number attending.

“This is another area in which I am involved” Jenny said.  “My former husband, Gordon, played with Newtown in the 1960s and I know many of those registering their participation on the day.  It should be a wonderful event and I want to appeal to all those coming along to bring any photos or other memorabilia they have for everyone to see.”